My 2020 in Review

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

So I can't quite do a travel roundup this year since I didn't actually leave the country but roundup posts are my favourite to go back to so I'm writing it anyway. 

I know it's been terrible for a lot of people but 2020 was one of the best years of my life. My mental health finally switched, I don't know what happened but I just wasn't depressed anymore; so even with everything that went on, 2020 was a great year for me and so I'm sorry but this post is going to be super self indulgent.

January was miserable. I spent the beginning of the year working through the last of the mess I was in during 2019; but then I left a very depressing, (but kinda well paid) job and everything changed almost overnight. 

By February I had started an amazing month long job placement. I was a membership exec was a beautiful private members club in Mayfair and I enjoyed every single day. I'd get dressed up for work for the first time in my life and spend my days working from a laptop in whichever room of the two clubs I felt like; with fancy coffee and macha lattes on demand. This ended 4 days before lockdown started. 

Three months in countryside isolation were a wonderful step back from the world, it felt like I'd been on a wellness retreat in all honesty. My brothers moved back home and we had family BBQs in the sun every day for the first 2 weeks. I spent my afternoons walking the dog around the forest with my mum, learnt how to knit, made pasta from scratch and even kinda went viral on tiktok (just a live stream with 20k viewers but even so!) I spent a whole lot of time online but with none of the usual time wasting guilt, I ate 19 Easter eggs (even with the supermarket restrictions) and invested myself dearly in caring for my succulent family - one of them even grew a flower!

In June I finally started meeting up with my friends for socially distanced bbq's and such. It was a bit scary but these were great memories, everyone was just so excited to be able to see each other. 

I also went on my only travel adventure around this time with an overnight trip to Kent. We explored a couple of castles and the white cliffs of Dover.

July, August and Sept were packed full of fun. I braved the tube and started cycling around London in the sunshine. Between the odd day at work here and there, I spent time with my friends, went back to the gym, ate at some incredible restaurants, had an awesome birthday week and finally got the meet up with the new people I met online who got me through lockdown. 

October was a bit of a messy one. Whilst all the fun continued in my social life - and it was great, my family life got turned upside down for a few weeks when both my grandparents caught Covid, luckily they were back on track for the festive season. 

November started well. I spent the first week eating out every single night and having an awesome time but soon we were back in lockdown! 

This time was a little different since I had a job which meant I could still go into London so I wasn't stuck in Essex all month, as lovely as it was in the summer. After work, I'd walk through the city for an hour on my way home. I made the most of the lockdown weekends by exercising outside, exploring food markets and spending many afternoons sat in my mums car drinking coffee with her.

And December.. Christmas and New Year were a little quieter than usual but I was very lucky to have it as good as I did considering the situation. 

A few days before Christmas, something strange happened. I got on a bus outside Selfridges and all of a sudden, a wave of; what I can only describe as the opposite of depression, came over me. I was overflowing with joy - it was very odd but so awesome, I've never experienced anything like it before and that, well that's kind of carried me through the month and to where I am now. 

With my newfound state of mind and the positive influence I've had from people I've been surrounding myself with, I'm excited for the year ahead and looking forward to what 2021 brings.

Drive through NHS covid testing | What to expect

Thursday, 26 November 2020

Earlier this year, I got my first Covid test. It was a very simple process but being such a nerve-racking situation made it feel almost impossible so I thought I'd give you a little run down to give you an idea of what to expect and also in the hopes of making it less of a big scary taboo.

You book your appointment online and they tell you where and when. I booked on the Sunday evening for an appointment at 11am the next day. You can book for up to 4 people per car, I went with my mum.

My dad and brother went the day before, to a different center but we both had the same issue; the postcode the NHS website gave got us both completely lost so it's worth checking exactly where you need to go before you set off. It seems to be car parks for local sports clubs and similar so super easy to find for yourself.

Once we arrived, it was quite clear where we were supposed to be, the car park had a little marquee and people wandering around in hi-vis jackets. We drove in and up to the marquee, with our windows tightly shut, someone scanned the QR codes that we got with the booking confirmation the night prior - through the glass and we shouted as the people on the other side tried to explain what to do.

The main jist of the conversation was if you have a problem put your hazard lights on and we'll come and help otherwise take this, follow the instructions and bring it back. They then asked us to wind a window down as little as possible and slid a bag through for each of us.

The instructions in the bag were quite simple but as I said it was just a nerve-racking experience so I had to read them over and over before I went ahead.

You're given one swab, a tube which already has some red liquid in to place it into, a couple of bags, a card and an instruction booklet. It was slightly confusing because the papers looked like they needed filling in as well as space for you to write your details on the bio bag but that was not the case (we also did not have a pen, which caused more panic). Luckily they didn't actually need us to fill it in as everything was done with bar codes which was actually very efficient, just a little unclear.

The same one swab has to go to the back of your throat and then up your nostril as well. It did make us gag and then it did make my eye water but it wasn't painful or hard to do at all just slightly uncomfortable for ten seconds each time.

The swab goes into the liquid in the tube, done up tight, the tube goes in the ziploc bag with a moisture pad, that goes into a bio hazard bag and you're told not to close it until someone can come and watch you do it (so you do it properly I assume.) We put the hazards on, the guy talked us through sealing the bag and then it gets passed back through the window (and taken from you with rubbish pincers lol) before being scanned for your details and put in a box with all the others.

And that was it. The one I visited at least was very simple and well run. I felt safe and I felt like the people working there were safe too so that was reassuring. My dad and brother got their results back, negative, within 48 hours although mine and my mum's took a few days, negative also.

*Accurate as of  September 2020

Covid Staycation | St Giles London

Monday, 2 November 2020

With both of my brothers moving back home at the beginning of lock down, not only did I have a new normal to get used to when it was finally lifted, I had a new home life as well. It wasn't terrible although the house did get a little bit crazy - eight months in; and with the next lock down looming, I was ready for a little escape.

Que: the St Giles hotel and their Stay Safe, Stay St Giles Programme - a great opportunity to just get away from all the family madness at home and just take a night to myself.

Reception was quiet and calm as I arrived on a slow Monday afternoon. Good distancing, protective screens, hand sanitiser and face masks worn by all staff instantly put my mind at rest. Staying somewhere more public than home during the pandemic can be a bit scary but they did a great job at reassuring me that everything was as Covid secure as possible without being invasive and ruining whole experience.

Heading up to my room on the 9th floor however, the hotel seemed a bit old and worn - the lift was super rickety - although opening the door to the room, I was pleasantly surprised. The suite was a really great size and with 5 large windows meaning the room was flooded with mid afternoon natural light - the bathroom was absolutely sparkling in the sun. There was a sofa and coffee table in the main part of the room but also a little cove behind the bed with a dressing table area and also a table and benches to sit on - it was a huge amount of room. From up there I also had great views across London in all directions.

It did smell a little musky but that soon went after I opened the windows. Other than that, everything seemed very clean and the complimentary a hand gel on the bed was very much appreciated. There were also stickers on the front door, the toilet and things like the remote, saying that they had been cleaned properly - these sorts of small touches meant I could relax, as there's no way I would have picked up the TV remote otherwise - that was something that used to freak me out a little even before covid.

The staff also were very accommodating, delivering a pen up to the room so I could fill in the breakfast card and also allowing me a late checkout which was very helpful.

I ate dinner and then breakfast at the hotel but these I would not recommend. Even with the half price deal they currently have on, it seems a huge waste to be staying in such an awesome location - Soho on one side and Fitzrovia on the other - and not make the most of all the amazing bars and restaurants within a couple minutes' walk. What I will say however was how nice it was to not have to go out into the cold, I just threw on a huge jumper over my lounge wear and wandered down to the restaurant in the warmth. I've hardly taken off this knitted cardigan from Femme Luxe since it arrived, its like a dressing gown that's acceptable to wear in public and I love it.

It's not the height of luxury but it doesn't claim to be; for locals looking for an easy escape or business and leisure travelers seeking a safe, central location, St Giles London is perfect. Rooms start at as little as £49

*Gifted Stay

Authentic Xi'an Food at Murger Hanhan

Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Murger Hanhan was another of my Instagram discoveries; that seems to be the way with everything I've done more recently, not that I'm complaining because this was a great new find. Not only did the food look totally unfamiliar which was very exciting but they are running a ridiculous £10 deal throughout October (three courses and a drink) so I got Georgia on board asap and we headed to their Mayfair branch for lunch. 

The restaurant itself was very cool; dark and intimate of course with an oriental vibe - and well set up for Covid too, there was a mini hand santizer and full length plastic sheet dividers between each table.

The £10 menu gave us the option of two starters, a choice of 25 xi'an noodle dishes and a couple pieces of mochi for dessert - plus any soft drink from the menu.

Georgia went for the veggie starter which were gyozas but as soon as I see something I've heard of on a menu, I'm intrigued. The other option was a murger (or rou jia mo in Mandarin) which they explain as the world's oldest sandwich/hamburger. I can definitely see where that description came from but at the same time, it was so uniquely Asian and just not like a burger at all. The shredded, fatty pork was full of flavour and almost held together like a patty spread was across this strange round bread. It was dense and chewy and just very unfamiliar - but very delicious.

The handmade biang biang noodles were what I was there for and they didn't disappoint. I ordered beef and Georgia went for chicken, which came chopped up but still on the bone - something I got very used to in Southeast Asia but was a bit odd to see in London; it wasn't your typical Chinese restaurant that's for sure. I haven't been to mainland China (just Hong Kong) so I can't be sure but all these new flavours, incomparable to anything I've had before really and a menu full of dishes I'd never heard of, made it feel very authentic. I loved being so unfamiliar.

I wasn't totally sure about the scrambled eggs and soggy tomatoes that were part of my dish, it was all a bit soft and wet but ignoring that, the pac choi, lemongrass and almost.. crumbly meat, along with the intensely flavoursome dribble of sauce at the bottom of the bowl were a perfect addition to the huge hand pulled noodles. They were thick, un-uniformed and had quite a bite to them thanks to the wheat rather than rice, they were made from. Big comfort food vibe. 

I love ice cream mochi so I wasn't worried that it was the only option for dessert. Mango and green tea, both vibrantly coloured with a soft, chewy shell, one sweet and one much more understated and a little bit bitter. Both very good. 

With a few days of the month left, if you're looking for something different, I'd highly recommend you take advantage of this deal and give Murger Hanhan a try.

Sensory deprivation pods | What to expect

Friday, 16 October 2020

I first heard about sensory deprivation pods in London a few years ago and have always been very curious to try them. I guess with Covid doing its thing, it seemed like a great time to give this solitary activity a go. Not only was it as easy way to try something new without being in close contact with anyone but it is also all about clearing your mind and with everything that's going on right now, it was much needed! 

From the moment I walked into Yue Float on a rainy Saturday morning, I felt relaxed. I went super warm and comfy in my fur lined converse, high waisted trousers and aviator jacket. 

The guy at the front desk was so chill - he took our details and then it was off to get started. Very little faffing which was nice. We were admiring the wall in reception and he told us that it's actually a living moss wall which he sprays with water daily. How cool!

Yue float has two pods which were each in their private room, along with a shower, towels, ear plugs etc. The guy showed us to our rooms, explained what to do and then left us with 10 minutes to have a quick shower and get ourselves into the pod before he started the programme from the front desk.

The pods themselves were huge, alot bigger than I'd imagined which made closing the lid and being in the enclosed space, much, much easier. Claustrophobia is a part of my life so it was something I was quite worried about beforehand but alas, not a problem with the almost 8" pods.

Along with their size, the fact that the lid was super light and stayed in whichever position you left it also made the whole experience very easy. It meant I was able to start with a big gap and bring it down slowly as I started to relax. It was fully closed by the time the 10 minutes were up and we were ready to start our hour.

The water in the pods is supposed to be body temperature, although it was a little cooler than I'd have liked. It's full of Epsom salts so you float very easily although its not very enjoyable when it gets into your eyes or mouth - luckily there is a clean water spray to keep on hand in case this happens.

I closed the lid, got into a comfortable position and the lights in the pod faded out.

The first part of the session was great, getting used to the lack of sensations, getting my thoughts in order and just the novelty of being there. You very quickly loose your spacial awareness and track of time. That being said, I was a little bored by the end.

We both felt the same afterwards which was surprising. I was expecting to feel calm and serene but actually, I felt kind of dazed and unsettled, maybe emerging back into the real world was too much for me although it didn't last long at all. We headed straight into Chelsea for brunch afterwards to refuel.

Overall, it was a cool experience and something I've wanted to do for ages so I'm glad I finally got the chance to do so and tick it off my list. They say it's something you need to do a few times to get the most out of it but at £50 a pop it's not something I want to pay to do over and over. It was quite expensive in my opinion.

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